Tired of all these supposedly freeloading illegal aliens? Think the economy would be better off without them?
In the research, economists Ryan Edwards and Francesc Ortega break down the economic contributions of unauthorized workers across different industries, while also exploring how mass deportations would affect those industries and looking at the effects of legalization. Undocumented immigrants constitute 4.9 percent of the American workforce. Some industries rely more heavily on these workers. In agriculture, for example, illegal immigrants represent 18 percent of the workforce. In construction, they constitute 13 percent; 10 percent in leisure and hospitality.
If all those workers were to disappear, gross domestic product (GDP) would go down by about 3 percent (that’s $5 trillion) over a 10-year period. “Once capital has adjusted, value-added in Agriculture, Construction and Leisure and hospitality would fall by 8–9%,” Edwards and Ortega write. “However, the largest losses in dollars would take place in Manufacturing, Wholesale and retail trade, Finance and Leisure and hospitality.”
And as for the opposite counterfactual, the one in which the country’s undocumented workforce was suddenly legalized? The authors find that legalization would increase private-sector GDP by about 0.5 percent, with larger gains (anywhere from 1.1 percent to 1.9 percent) in leisure and hospitality, construction, and agriculture.
Edwards and Ortega’s conclusions are consistent with past research, which overwhelmingly concludes that immigration is good for the economy at large, and that legalizing undocumented workers is beneficial to both the economy and native workers.
Maybe amnesty isn’t a bad thing.